Jeff Withey set a record for blocks in a single NCAA tournament with 31 total in the 2012 edition of the Big Dance. He’s returning for his senior year as a key leader for a Kansas team that lost lottery pick Thomas Robinson and talented veteran Tyshawn Taylor.
Withey talked about basketball, the national title game and next season in a Q&A with ESPN.com.
What kind of player would you like to be for the Jayhawks next year?
Jeff Withey: I definitely want to be a scorer next year. I feel like I have to be with Thomas leaving. That’s going to be a big gap. I’m definitely working on my game. My post moves. My midrange game. Last year, I felt like people backed off me whenever I caught it at the high post. I definitely want to be able to hit that open jumper. It’s going to be tough with coach [Danny] Manning leaving, but we’ve got some good coaches. … I’m pretty much just worried about gaining weight right now, going to the gym to shoot a ton of shots. But I definitely want to become that guy who can hit that open jump shot and give it to me on the block and be able to make a move. I definitely want to play that role.
I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff later in the summer. I’m going to Amare Stoudemire camp. I’ll definitely learn some things there.
After a strong NCAA tournament, why did you decide against going pro?
JW: I definitely considered it. It was definitely a dream of mine to play in the NBA. I thought about it. I talked to my parents about it. I talked to my coaches about it. At the end of the day, I felt like it was better to come and graduate and maybe go a lot higher than I was projected to go.
How will this team change without Robinson and Taylor?
JW: We’ve got some really good young guys coming in. We’ve got Perry Ellis coming in. We’ve got this guy named Zach [Peters] that’s coming in. We’re excited about our team. We still have a strong core of seniors: me, Elijah [Johnson], Travis [Releford] and Kevin Young who came off the bench last year is going to be a senior also. We’ve got some good experience. Going that far in the tournament, I feel like you learn so much about basketball and just, we’ll be able to kind of coach the young guys and help Coach [Bill] Self in getting them right and what to expect. I feel like, hopefully, we’re going to be right back in it next year. I’m excited.
Have you watched the national title game yet?
JW: No. I can’t watch it. I can’t watch it. I was thinking about doing it when I was flying back home to San Diego. Our film guy put it on my iPad, but I didn’t want to watch it.
How did Jayhawk doubters prior to the start of last year affect the team’s overall performance?
JW: In the beginning of the season, nobody picked us to go as far as we did or win the Big 12. We saw it as kind of fuel. We didn’t want to be that team that lost it. We’ve won eight straight now. To lose that title would just be different. We didn’t want to be those guys to lose. So we definitely used it as fuel, especially in the tournament. We felt like every time we played, we felt like everyone was saying we were going to lose and not make it very far. Missouri was going to do this and that. Missouri’s our rival so we wanted to upstage them, of course. It’s just a great way that this whole year went. It went perfect for us. It was awesome.